Reviews for Spindlers

Booklist Reviews 2012 July #1
When Liza's little brother, Patrick, comes downstairs one morning, she knows that Spindlers have gotten him: while he slept, they crept in, stole his soul, deposited their eggs, and slipped back to their underground lairs. Soon the fake Patrick will turn to dust, and a thousand new Spindlers will burst into the world. Liza tries to tell her exhausted, busy parents, but they don't believe her. So Liza sets out to reclaim Patrick's soul. Oliver's new middle-grade novel feels a bit like a fantasy checklist: misunderstood girl goes through door on quest, teams up with eccentric sidekick, is double-crossed, solves riddles and thwarts monsters, is saved from disaster by friendly creatures, and returns home with new understanding. In spite of these familiar elements, the story flows well, with enough dangers to propel the pace and plenty of memorable characters, including Mirabella, the makeup-wearing rat. Oliver creates a sympathetic heroine in Liza, whose trials, both Below and Above, will appeal to young readers. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: An author tour, media appearances, a dedicated Facebook page, and even a sweepstakes will likely expand the audience for this title beyond Oliver's zillions of current fans. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
Liza senses something is different about her brother. Sure enough, his soul has been taken by spiderlike spindlers; Liza embarks on a journey underground to save him. She befriends a giant rat named Mirabella and encounters a variety of fantastical creatures, both friend and foe. Oliver's quest story treads some familiar territory, but imaginative elements throughout make the tale her own.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 August #1
Liza must venture Below to rescue her little brother's soul, stolen by evil, power-hungry spider people called spindlers, in this refreshingly creepy, intricately woven tale. A concealed hole in the wall behind a narrow bookcase in her family's basement is her entry, and amid loud scratching noises, Liza trips, falling down into the darkness Below. Mirabella, a giant rat who wears newspaper for a skirt, becomes her trusted guide to the spindlers' nests, which Liza must reach before the Feast of the Souls. But things are never what they seem in Oliver's vividly imagined world....An arduous, dangerous and fantastical journey ensues. As in the author's first terrific book for middle-grade readers, Liesl & Po (2011), there is a smorgasbord of literary references, including strong echoes of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It is laced with humor and engaging wordplay, as well as riddles and death-defying tests and enchantments. Wholly original creatures populate the tale, some reassuring and wise, like the nocturni and lumer-lumpen, others wonderfully macabre (and ferocious), like the queen of the spindlers and the shape-shifting scawgs. In the course of her episodic quest, Liza discovers she is resourceful and brave; she sees things differently than before. Richly detailed, at times poetic, ultimately moving; a book to be puzzled over, enjoyed and, ideally, read aloud. (Final illustrations not seen.) (Fantasy. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #1

Liza knows the spiderlike Spindlers have stolen the soul of her brother, Patrick, when he spells "I H-A-T-E Y-O-U" in his Alpha-Bits cereal one morning. "And they had left this thing, this not-younger-brother, in its place." Liza's harried parents reprimand her for making up stories, so she ventures into the damp basement, crawls through the hole behind the bookcase, and falls into the world "Below" to save her brother. There, a gaudily dressed, loquacious rat, Mirabella, agrees to lead Liza to the Spindlers' nests. Along the way, Mirabella introduces Liza to troglods, who sell lost human objects; the lumer-lumpen (glowworms); nocturni, who guard human souls; and other strange, frightening creatures. The terrain changes in dreamlike fashion as Liza travels through market, forest, palace, mountain, and more, making discoveries both terrible and hopeful. Themes of fairness, loyalty, betrayal, and redemption play out in Liza and Mirabella's relationship, and throughout the underworld cosmos. Oliver's (Liesl & Po) magical, mesmerizing quest affirms the saving power of story, friendship, and love. Ages 8-12. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Foundry Literary + Media. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 September

Gr 4-6--Patrick has always been a sweet, lovable child, but one morning Liza notices that her younger brother seems remote and somehow empty. Their parents are too preoccupied to notice, but Liza remembers eerie stories her beloved babysitter used to tell. She realizes that this not-Patrick is a changeling. Her real brother has been taken by the spindlers-spiderlike creatures that haunt the world below. These evil beings gather their power from the souls of those they steal, while the counterfeits they leave behind spawn more spindlers to prey on the human sphere. When Liza resolves to brave the danger and retrieve Patrick's soul, she meets Mirabella, a talking rat who claims to know the way to the spindler queen's nesting place. Together, they set off on their quest. The underground realm is filled with unusual residents-some amusing, some quietly beautiful, and some truly terrifying. Mirabella seems friendly and helpful, but the rat's cheerful demeanor hides a shocking secret. Ultimately, Liza and Mirabella must face their own tests of courage and sacrifice with not only Patrick's fate, but all of Below at stake. This imaginative fantasy emphasizes individual initiative and the power of hope and friendship. Below is a fully realized alternate world with echoes of both classic literature and mythology. This is particularly notable in its variety of inhabitants. Although the creatures are Oliver's own creations, such beings as the winged, dream-bearing nocturni and the shape-shifting, cannibalistic scawgs have the feel of true folklore. With strong, self-reliant female characters and well-defined action, this is a strong addition to fantasy collections.--Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL

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